It’s only a few days until NASA and its partners on the James Webb Space Telescope project reveal the first full-color images and spectroscopic data captured by the observatory. The agency has shed a little more light on what to expect by revealing the JWST’s initial list of cosmic targets.
One of them is the Carina Nebula, which is around 7,600 light years away. NASA says it’s one of the biggest and brightest nebulae in the sky and it includes stars that are several times larger than the Sun. Another nebula the telescope captured images from is the Southern Ring. That’s roughly 2,000 light years from Earth and is a planetary nebula — it’s an expanding cloud of gas that surrounds a dying star.
Closer to home is the gas planet WASP-96 b, which is almost 1,150 light years away and has around half the mass of Jupiter. NASA will provide a look at the planet’s light spectrum data. Much further from here is Stephan’s Quintet, which is around 290 million light years away in the Pegasus constellation. This is the first compact galaxy group that was discovered, all the way back in 1877. It comprises five galaxies, four of which “are locked in a cosmic dance of repeated close encounters,” NASA said.
Also on Tuesday, NASA, the European Space Agency and Canadian Space Agency will reveal imagery for SMACS 0723. “Massive foreground galaxy clusters magnify and distort the light of objects behind them, permitting a deep field view into both the extremely distant and intrinsically faint galaxy populations,” NASA explained.
A committee of experts from NASA, ESA, CSA and the Space Telescope Science Institute spent five years determining the first targets for Webb’s instruments. The full-color images and spectroscopic data that JSWT captured will be revealed on July 12th at 10:30AM ET. You’ll be able to view them on NASA’s website.
This marks an important step for JWST as it marks the official beginning of the observatory’s general science operations. The aim is to provide us with more detailed images and information about the earliest stars and galaxies as well as potentially habitable exoplanets. After launch in December, it took several months for the JWST to reach its destination and prepare for full operation. We’re very close to finding out just what the observatory is capable of.